Germany taking no risk with Mats Hummels for Poland clash

SAINT-DENIS: Germany is to take a late decision on whether defender Mats Hummels could return for its match against Poland at the European Championship on Thursday.

Though the world champions beat Ukraine 2-0 in their opening Group C game at Euro 2016 last Sunday, Germany's defensive frailties were exposed.

Coach Joachim Loew is hoping that the Hummels, who recently joined Bayern Munich, will be declared fit after a calf injury sustained last month and restore some order to the German back-line.

"Hummels trained with the team twice. However, neither day was a long session so it will be important to see how the last training goes this evening," Loew said Wednesday. "We'll observe him and have a talk with him and then we'll have to come to a decision whether he can play or not. If he's not 100 percent and there's any doubt I won't take a risk."

Germany has an impressive record against its neighbor, but Poland claimed an important 2-0 home win in qualifying in Oct. 2014 — its first victory over Germany in 19 games.

Poland coach Adam Nawalka said Wednesday that victory was an important staging-post for his team. "But with our good players, such important wins would have come around sooner or later," he said.

Poland's main injury concern centers around goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny who has been ruled out for the match against Germany following an injury picked up in the 1-0 win over Northern Ireland — Poland's first at a European Championship. Nawalka said he could return for the final group game against Ukraine.

While Nawalka acknowledged the difficulty of facing "one of the best teams in the world," his counterpart paid tribute to a side that has made huge progress in recent years.

"Poland's greatest strength is that they're a well-organized team and that they wait and lurk to play on counterattacks. They have players that can switch things around quickly," Loew said. "Fast players that drop deep and have a high-tempo. They are so strong on the counterattack. One of the best counterattacking teams that I've seen in the last few years."

Germany is returning to the Stade de France for the first time since the stadium was targeted during its friendly with France in the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13.

"Of course there were a few thoughts about it on the journey," Loew said of the side's return. "Of course it all came back. But it isn't an issue. No one here has the feeling that they aren't safe. All the concentration and focus is on the game tomorrow."

With both sides winning their opening games, Thursday's match will likely go a long way to deciding which team tops Group C for a game against a third-placed team in the round of 16.